A 2017 report predicts that the thermally conductive grease market will be worth over $416 million by 2022. Demand has been escalating as cooling needs increase and heat transference demands rise. Clearly, computer components are sensitive to heat, as are medical devices and technology in other sectors. The more powerful they are, the more heat they generate.
Thermal grease promotes conduction between surfaces, filling irregular gaps and keeping conductivity at its peak. It can be applied in layers more thinly than thermal pads will ever achieve. It also stays cool, but while it’s an attractive option, it won’t guide the industry single-handedly. As fabrication evolves, so will thermal compounds. For the moment, the industry is divided into silicone and non-silicone grease. End users include:
- LED lighting
- IT and telecoms
- Automotive technology
- Power electronics.
Shin-Etsu MicroSi is one of the market leaders focused on the varieties of compounds that can play this role. It’s using thermal gel pastes to smooth out surface curves and inconsistencies. Silicone and zinc gels are filling general end user needs, while silver and ceramics are being used when improved heat transmission is required. Light tests help to check that surfaces are entirely covered.
Other Shin Etsu thermal materials include:
- Liquid RTV rubber
- Silicone adhesives
- Polymide coating agents
- Fluorosilicone gels to protect electrodes
- Silicone impression materials for more precise mold creation.
Electronic devices function best at cool temperatures, but heat dissipation solutions aren’t always easy to transfer and remove. Double sided thermal interfaces achieve both these goals, while thermal interface phase change materials keep sheets in a liquid state. The hardness of silicones presents its own challenges. Stability and adhesion needs determine your choice of greasee.
The thermal management market is worth $14 billion today, and its future will bring innovation to industries as diverse as healthcare, data centers, and hybrid cars.